The U.S. Policy of Certification
One of the more controversial aspects of U.S. foreign policy is the annual determination by the U.S. government that certain countries will be certified or not certified according to whether or not they are making sufficient effort to fight the drugs war, either by limiting the production of drugs in their own countries or by combating the use of their countries for drug-transit purposes. Depending on Washington's decisions, such countries mayor may not qualify for U.S. aid. The United States uses this drug certification process to force corruption to the surface. Section 490 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 requires the president to certify annually that each major drug-producing or transit country has cooperated fully or has taken adequate steps on its own to meet the goals and objectives of the 1988 UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (1988 UN Drug Convention), including rooting out public corruption. This, by any standards, is a tall order; in effect, it empowers the U.S. government to decide the extent to which such countries are corrupt and the extent to which they are attempting to combat such corruption. Most countries have enough on their hands combating corruption at home. In a presidential letter of December 4, 1998, to the chairman and ranking members of the House Committees on Appropriations and International Relations and the Senate Committees on Appropriations and Foreign Relations, I President Bill Clinton set forth his policy for the coming year: "I have determined that the following countries are major illicit drug-producing or transit countries: Afghanistan, Aruba, the Bahamas, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Myanmar (Burma), Cambodia, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Taiwan, Thailand, Venezuela, and Vietnam." This is a formidable list, and all these countries would expect to come under some form of U.S. pressure about their inability or unwillingness to curtail drug activities. The president went on to say that he had removed Iran and Malaysia from the list of major drug-producing countries and designated them countries of concern. Iran had long been a traditional opium-producing country but during the 1990s had carried out a successful policy of eradicating illicit opium poppy cultivation. Although large amounts of illicit drugs continued to transit Iran en route to Europe, the
U.S. government had no evidence that significant quantities of these drugs were destined for the United States. Similarly, in relation to Malaysia, the president said there was no evidence that drugs destined for the United States had transited Malaysia over the previous few years. The president also stated that the following countries or regions were places of concern for the purpose of U.S. counternarcotics efforts and he gave varying reasons for listing the Netherlands Antilles, Turkey and other "Balkan Route Countries," Syria and Lebanon, Cuba, "Major Cannabis Producers" (under which he listed Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, the Philippines, and South Africa, but went on to say that the cannabis produced was either consumed locally or was exported to countries other than the United States), and central Asia (Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, which were cleared of significant opium poppy cultivation). The president pointed out that Central America was the natural conduit for the transshipment of drugs from South America to the United States, and he expressed particular concern about the roles of Costa Rica, EI Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. This list of countries over which the president and, through him, the U.S. government expressed concern for their drug activities and their likely impact on the U.S. drug market amounted to a substantial number of countries worldwide that the United states sought to influence in terms of its war on drugs.